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Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

Posted by emgardener (My Page) on
Wed, Apr 9, 08 at 2:30

Last year I put a small float valve in the bottom of a homemade SWC, made from a 19 gallon rubbermaid tote.

Planted an early girl tomato. It grew big with lots of harvest. And I never had to hand water. Had a 50 gallon brute rubbermaid trash can filled with water. Put 1/4" tube from the can to the float. And it worked all season. I was afraid the tomato roots might clog it up.

This spring I threw out the soil to use the SWC again and checked out the roots around the float valve. There were none, it was totally clean. Very surprising. I had expected some roots to be on the float valve but there were none. Some roots were at the bottom of the SWC but not a whole lot. I believe since water was always in the reservoir, the roots couldn't grow into it. In a SWC, that I hand watered, I saw more root growth in the bottom of the container. Maybe since the container dried out somewhat the roots could establish themselves better as the bottom of the container would have been damp, not totally dry or full of water.

Anyway, for me this is exciting. Freedom from watering without worries. For this year, I've added a float valve to one of my 5 GS SWCs to test out. If it works, I'll retrofit the others next year. Also put a float in a 5 gallon bucket SWC. Having a float in each container means I can put the containers at any level (versus a 1 float system that feeds many containers at the same level).

Wordy post, but the $12 Kerick plastic floats (MA252) are much more inexpensive than the Earthbox automatic watering system. And the floats can be put in GS or homemade SWCs.

If anyone is interested, I can post a picture of the GS SWC I retrofitted this year.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

For maintaining a water level in most water features I have used a float valve made for evaporative coolers connected to a nearby drip system line. The pressure is only 10 to 15 pounds and most drip systems will cycle two or three times a week, which is often enough to top off any water feature, where the water loss is from evaporation. I fill my bird baths the same way. Al


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RE: Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

emgardener,
I would be interested in seeing photos of your latest setup.


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RE: Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

Michael,

Pictures are below.

Let us know how your setup goes.

The coffee can lid in the 5 gallon bucket just covers the old wick hole. I had to move the wick to the side in order to fit the float in.

If possible, its probably better to have the float inlet set higher than the pre-existing reservoir level. So if you want to take out the float, it won't effect your SWC reservoir level for normal use.

I drilled aeration holes in my GS SWC, since it didn't come with them.

If the pictures don't come out in this post they can be viewed at www.photobucket.com Account: emgardener

Happy watering

http://i200.photobucket.com/albums/aa59/emgardener/Trip023.jpg

http://i200.photobucket.com/albums/aa59/emgardener/Trip024.jpg

Float valve in 5gallon SWC

Float valve in Garden Supply SWC

[IMG]http://i200.photobucket.com/albums/aa59/emgardener/Trip023.jpg[/IMG]

[IMG]http://i200.photobucket.com/albums/aa59/emgardener/Trip024.jpg[/IMG]


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RE: Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

I was just searching for mini float valves on google and found this - the same ones you used I think - http://www.thevalveshop.com/menu/manual/kerick/kerickm.html very affordable!

then I came across this thread here, confirming my idea (ok, now I know it was not an original idea) that a mini float valve could make even LESS work out of a SWC! Awesome, good to see it worked well!


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RE: Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

I remember when you first posted this I thought it was a great design. I just ordered 3 of the float valves from US plastics, which is a bit cheaper than the site listed above. I plan on using them in Raybo's SWC design that I'm upgrading to from 18 gallon totes. I will post a how to once I get them in and get everything designed.


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RE: Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

emgardener,

How did you mate the 1/4 inch rubber tubing to the float valve? I bought 5 of the same float valves to experiment with as they appear to work with gravity supplied water, but it looks like you need a 1/4 inch copper tube for it to seat in the compression fitting. How did you get around that?

Raybo


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RE: Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

The one's that I purchased have a 1/2" MPT on the outside. If it takes a compression fitting you can use the regular drip tubing in it.


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RE: Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

Raybo,

If still looking at this thread, didn't need a copper tube. The 1/4" drip line goes straight into the float assembly. There are some small plastic rings that come with the float that you shouldn't lose. You need to fiddle with them as they clamp down on the 1/4" tube as you tighten by screwing it in. I've forgotten how to place the plastic rings around the tubing, but I remember it took me awhile to figure it out (no directions sent).

regards, love your pictures, and am jealous of your sunshine


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RE: Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

EG,

Did you simply push the 1/4" drip tubing into the float valve's compression fitting - - or did you have to disassemble the compression fitting to extract the ferule and slip that over the tubing?

Raybo


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RE: Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

Where did you get the floats and how much were they? I was thinking about this last year and doing it with a tray underneath and watering several containers at the same time.

Andy.


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RE: Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

I ordered this one http://www.usplastic.com/catalog/variant.asp?catalog_name=usplastic&category_name=6109&product_id=12596&variant_id=23099 and mine worked great in 5 gal buckets and also 3 gal buckets from empty cat litter containers. There was some roots in the bottom of my buckets that had tomato plants but not enough to interfere with the float. I used a 55 gal. trash can to hold the water reserve and 1/4 white tubing running from each pot to the next 12 pots in all. I used PEX Union Tee that I got at local hardware store to connect the hose together and to the buckets. Since I was using buckets I only had about 3 inches space for the float and it took some experimenting to determine the correct setting for the float to stop and not hit the bottom of the upper bucket.

Eggplant, tomato, hot and sweet pepper and okra all did great in the containers.


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RE: Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

I bought them from The Valve Shop. About $10.00 each. Mine came with all the fittings, where someone who bought from another source reported that his did not come with the compression fittings, etc.

I would order the MA252 adjustable model, so you can tweak the water level to just what you want.

Raybo

Here is a link that might be useful: Float Valve


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RE: Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

I've had 2 ideas Ive been thinking about.

1. Using a valve along with a tray under several buckets
2. An Ebb and Flow systems they use to grow pot. Below is an ad for one such system.

Anybody try either of these? What are the drawbacks? I still plan to do everything else like the earthtainers.

Andy.

Ebb & Gro Multi-Pot Hydroponics System
Talk about flexibility! The Ebb & Gro Multi-Pot System is the most versatile ebb and flow hydroponics system on the market. The basic configuration starts with 12 growing pots and will support up to 48! Each grow pot consists of 2 pots nested inside each other so that you are be able to pick up the inner pot and move the plants from one site to another on the system to even out the growlight coverage more accurately.
The Ebb & Gro is easy to set up. All parts fit inside the 55-gallon reservoir for easy transportation or storage between crops. This ebb and flow system floods and drains planters on the cycle you set on the included reservoir controller. The 2-gallon pots are ideal for larger plants and can be placed as close at 10 inches as you start your garden, then spread apart as your plants mature.
Ebb & Gro Multi-Pot System includes:
12 2-gallon pots
55 gallon reservoir
Controller with 2 submersible Via Aqua 315 GPH water pumps and a C.A.P. timer
Tubing and connectors
Detailed set up and operating instructions

http://www.4hydroponics.com/hydroponics/images/ebbNgro.gif


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RE: Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

The problem with ebb and flow is complication of the system. If you wanted really simple, the best method would be to get a water resevoir, use a automatic fill valve designed for animal stock tanks (tractor supply co. $9.99) it connects to a standard garden hose.

Set this up so that the valve was at a height equal to the resevoir, then run a line from that resevoir to the resevoirs in all your containers. gravity will keep the water level equal in all your containers as long as your containers are all level and in the same plane as your initial resevoir.


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RE: Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

I certainly enjoy this thread and the solutioning within it, but for the typical homeowner these ideas are out of reach, unless someone in this thread is thinking of mass production, and economies of scale bring down the float price to make a boxed system affordable.

Much simpler in my mind for Joe and Jane Homeowner is a simple spaghetti tube at a known gph delivery and a timer to deliver the proper amount, based on an estimate of how much per day your containers will use. And still, this presumes equal reservoir size and all in the same location, neither of which apply to me. Not to mention that Joe/Jane will have to pay attention to weather and water usage ).

None of this is to say that I won't buy a float valve or two for grins.

Dan


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RE: Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

Dan,

I bought 4 float valves to fool around with for the EarthTainers as their big benefit is they will work in a gravity fed system like from a rain barrel.

But for my set up on city water, the EarthBox Company's Automated Watering System is absolute elegant simplicity. You need to lengthen the pressure tube by a few inches for the now longer 'Tainer filler tube, but other than that, it's a no brainer. At $6.50 per tomato plant, it is a real deal!

Photobucket

Raybo


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RE: Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

I went to the "Earthbox" web site and couldn't find anything in the $6.95 range for self watering. Do you have a link to the site where these can be found?

Andy.


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RE: Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

Andy,

Here is the link. It works out to be $12.50 per AWS, so with two plants per EarthTainer, that comes out to be $6.25 per plant. The best garden item I have ever purchased!!

Raybo

http://shop2.mailordercentral.com/EarthBox/prodinfo.asp?number=EB-WS-12+EB+KIT

Here is a link that might be useful: AWS


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RE: Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

Posted by rnewste 8b NorCal (My Page) on Thu, Feb 26, 09 at 22:23

Andy,
Here is the link. It works out to be $12.50 per AWS, so with two plants per EarthTainer, that comes out to be $6.25 per plant. The best garden item I have ever purchased!!

Raybo

http://shop2.mailordercentral.com/EarthBox/prodinfo.asp?number=EB-WS-12+EB+KIT

The only problem is you have to buy them in the 12 kit to get that price. For the kit of two it's 12.50 a plant, for the kit it's 6 it's 8.33. To purchase just the valve itself is 14.95 each. Some people don't have earthtainer farms!

I love the simplicity of the system, and if I was hooking directly to city water, it's what I would have chosen as right now I'm around $13 a valve with fittings and I haven't purchased the required 1/2" tubing.


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RE: Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

jl,

While I don't squander money easily, even if the EarthBox Company charged twice the price, it still would have been a "no brainer" for me to buy them. Think about what your time is worth to stand there with a hose manually refilling each container every day or two, as well as the benefit to the plant to keep the moisture exactly at the same level constantly - - then what do you do when you go on a week's vacation - trust a neighbor???

You could always buy the 12 unit kit, then sell the unused ones here by posting their availability. This was absolutely the BEST investment I have ever made in the garden.

Raybo


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RE: Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

I did it last year with a timer and drip emitters. They didn't need to be on the same level. I did waste a lot of water, but after some tinkering it worked pretty well.

Andy.


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RE: Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

Andy,

Don't the tomato plants' uptake vary widely during the course of the Summer? How did you keep the containers full without wasting water through the overflow hole? If you turned off the water too soon, the container would eventually run out. Seems to be a tedious guessing game adjusting the new watering time length each week.

Raybo


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RE: Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

It did want a fair amount of water. I found adjustable emitters and that helped a lot. I had tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, herbs and strawberries.

With so many different things on the same timer my goal was just to make sure that everything did overflow each time and if something started too soon to adjust it.

I had the timer set for 2 times a day in the summer. Other than adjusting the emitters and picking off the suckers from the tomatoes it wasn't that much work.

I would like to find something better than this system. I like the idea of the float valves, but $150 is a lot of tomatoes.

Andy.


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RE: Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

Good stuff here,
emgardener, how did you connect the 1/4" tubing to the 55 gallon container?
Thanks...


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RE: Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

Just checked this link again.

See this picture

http://i200.photobucket.com/albums/aa59/emgardener/Containergarden012.jpg

To connect the 1/4" inch tubing to the 55 gallon container, I simply drilled a hole (forgot what size, but less then 1/4"), then took a big spike nail and rotated it in the hole. This made the hole taper in (?), then cut the 1/4" tubing at an angle and forced it in. Works great, no leaking and very simple. Definitely recommend practicing on some other plastic containers first though before drilling the 55 gallon one.

Also for the 1/4" tubing to float valve connection. I did disassemble some pieces and put the little plastic ring on the 1/4" tube, then twisted back together. Sorry don't know any of the technical terms for these devices.


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RE: Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

Thanks for the response; I sacrifed one of my float valves.
I took the float off and mounted to the bottom of the 55 gallon container, Works great and has a compression fitting for my 1/4' tubing..............


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RE: Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

Hello to all !!!!!!!!!

I SOOO need some help to start my hydro garden for this year! I LOVE the idea of the Float Valve idea's ..

Does anyone have any diagrams of the buckets
What to put in them INSTEAD of soil..
Basic .. this is what to do kinda thing.. I have NO idea !

The deer have been the only ones getting ANYTHING out of my gargen and I want it raised and off the ground.. Hydro and I have NO IDEA where to start

If ANYONE would be so kind to email me any information, pictures .. Instructions.... I would SO appreciate it

I will have some buckets for the padio that I would LOVE to have set up with the Valves... But I also want to do a system that I have seen on the internet like:

http://www.austindiggers.com/hydro.html

That is my page - Its JUST a online journial for MYSELF.. The first 2 picutures are what I would LOVE to have..

The rest of the page is just stuff that I found on the internet and compiled the pictures for myself untill I know what I am doing ! and that I thought were GREAT!!!

Please help!!
Michelle@austindiggers.com

Here is a link that might be useful: My Hydro Notes Page


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RE: Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

Michelle,

There are a number of ways to implement a Self Watering Container. Here is a link to one of them (below).

Raybo

Here is a link that might be useful: EarthTainer II WaterMizer Edition Guide


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RE: Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

I purchased some: 23136 PVC Mini Adjustable Float Valve With 1/2" MIPT from US Plastic to put in my home made boxes.

I plan to link sets of boxes together and put a gravity fed float in one of the boxes. I plan to run one line from the box with the float with tee's into the slave boxes. My boxes are all on the same level.

How do you fit 1/4" lines to the boxs without leaks? (The linking lines will have to be below the water level to keep all the boxes full.)


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RE: Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

You can use a rubber grommet to insert into the sidewall of the container. Then, GENTLY push the 1/4" tubing through it into the container.

Raybo


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RE: Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

For an airtight siphon system, only the end of the tubing in the reservoir needs to be below the water line. If you are assembling the SWC, make a 1/4 in. hole for the tubing near the overflow hole in the side of the SWC. take a length of tubing from hole to bottom of SWC, twist a 1/4 in. nut on one end (for weight) and an elbow fitting on the other. Put the elbow through the hole. As long as the lines and fittings are watertight and you initially charge the lines with water, they will continue to siphon.

Disclosure, this info is paraphrased from others who have described water siphons for SWCs.

I initially used this method with a float valve to fill a central container. I found it unreliable for me, especially if the central container is too small and went dry between cycles of my drip system.

I purchased an adjustable 8 position dripline "octopus" with a dripline to each SWC. No fittings needed on the end of the tube in each SWC reservoir. I left the siphon system connected and it still equalizes the SWC's between watering cycles.

Rick


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RE: Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

"How do you fit 1/4" lines to the boxs without leaks? (The linking lines will have to be below the water level to keep all the boxes full.) "

Connecting 1/4" drip lines to plastic containers is actually quite easy.

I just drill a 1/8" hole in the container. Then using a spike nail, I slowly turn it in the hole to make the hole bigger and give the hole tapered edge. Then just cut the 1/4" tube at a slant and twist in. Make sure the final hole size is less than 1/4" though to give it a "compression" leak proof fitting.

This basically make a compression type fitting that all flexible polytubing drip systems use for their 0.700" or 0.600" tube lines.

I haven't had a leak in the 3 years I've been doing this.

Photobucket

Photobucket

[IMG]http://i200.photobucket.com/albums/aa59/emgardener/Containergarden012.jpg[/IMG]

[IMG]http://i200.photobucket.com/albums/aa59/emgardener/Containergarden002.jpg[/IMG]


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RE: Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

emgardener, am I to understand that you are not using a float valve? You just connect the 1/4in tubing to your main reservoir, place it higher than your plant reservoir and then run a 1/4in tubing into the plant reservoir and that is it?

Im thinking that if the main tank is higher than the plant's reservoir then the pressure would continue to fill the plant's reservoir...

Am I thinking corrrectly on this? Anyone's answers are welcome...thanks.


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RE: Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

There is a float valve in the SWCs. This year I put float valves in all my SWCs, it was quite convenient.

Next year though I'm switching to a drip system, for better drainage.


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Poor-man's Float Valve ('Self Watering Container worked')

I just came across this site and your group discussion on float-valve alternatives/solutions.

For what it's worth, here is how I devised my own float valve for FREE, from available materials: plastic drip tubing and a scrap of stryofoam.

The key is to pre-crimp the plastic tube with heat. (Crimp by softening an inch of tubing with a heat gun (or other means BUT BE EXTRA CAREFUL to avoid burning skin/eyes with steam, etc.) Press crimp (with weight or pliers) until cool (e.g. under water).

Also, note how the sharp angle that the 1/4" siphon tube is mounted. It is snap-mounted into a little piece of the same tubing, but split and glued onto the container wall.

I hope this is useful, especially for others unemployed and/or no income, such as myself. (It's hard to find employers comfortable with innovations originating from subordinates, etc.)

Here is a link that might be useful: Detailed photo (2 annotated, how-to views)


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RE: Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

BR,
Very ingenious and elegant!
I scratched my brain a lot trying to figure out a
simple homemade float valve. Finally gave up and bought some.


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RE: Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

EM, You said in an earlier post that you were thinking of switching over to a drip system for "better drainage." I was wondering if you could explain a bit more on that point. I am restricted to watering my system with well water. A gravity fed system seems to be the most logical choice for me, but your comment regarding drainage concerns me, and leaves me wondering exactly what you mean.


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RE: Float valve in Self Watering Container worked

Yes I did this for the last 2 years now.

I had used SWCs for over 10 years and had them optimized for my location. However the results were unsatisfactory. The extra soil wetness always caused the plants to die off early, later in the season, so I never got a full harvest.

Some people in sunnier locations seem to get better results, but I never could.

A drip system has been working much better.

Drip lines will work with very low pressure, just try it. I've made them work with just 3 or 4 feet of pressure.

http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/contain/msg0518184613195.html

http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/contain/msg06185055362.html

http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/contain/msg1018482830086.html


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